Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard’s big night ruined vs Denver Nuggets

Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard CJ McCollum
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers have to start out hotter

Too many times this series, the Blazers have come out flat and dug themselves into a deep, daunting hole. In Game 5, the Nuggets came off the tip with a 10-0 run and continued to build on that throughout the first half. At one point, they led by 22 points.

Somehow, behind big plays from Dame and CJ, Portland clawed themselves out of that hole and brought the game within three at the halftime buzzer.

The Blazers can’t afford to keep playing this way. Even if they’re able to get past the first-round while continuing this trend, the team can’t count on hot shooting or Dame Time to keep saving their games as they advance.

The problem comes down to effort. In Game 4, Denver built that early lead because Portland flat-out refused to exert energy on defense. That, coupled with horrendous shot selection, created a cancerous deficit that grew exponentially.

The Trail Blazers have shown capable of playing adequate, and at times even above average, defense. They did so in their Game 4 slaughter to even the series. They showed the same ability in their comeback in Game 5. That’s what makes watching the Blazers come out flat-footed, incoherent, and happy to ball-watch in the beginning of games so frustrating.

The same goes for their offense. Everybody knows that Portland’s attack is one of the most lethal in the league. When Dame and CJ are trading buckets, the role players are drilling threes, and Nurkic is carving the defense up from inside the paint, the Blazers are borderline unstoppable. The issue arises when they come out all too content to jack up contested threes, nary a drive or pass in each possession.

The responsibility is on Coach Terry Stotts to ensure that his team comes out each and every game ready and desiring to dominate. We know that if they want, they can.